Suicides are preventable and the detection of early warning signs is critical to prevention and supporting the victims. According to Dr Gina Teddy, Co-ordinator, Centre for Health Systems and Policy Research (CHESPOR)― a multi-disciplinary Centre with the mandate to undertake research,
training, advocacy, community and multi-sectoral engagements― at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), there was the need to build the capacity of employers, churches, schools, communities, civil society organizations and the media to identify the early warning signs of suicide in order to help prevent it.
Dr Teddy, who was addressing an Open Forum Panel and Discussion on the topic: Working together to prevent suicide: A day for "40 seconds of action" at GIMPA, Legon, in Accra on Thursday, October 10, 2019, disclosed that suicide had become a major health concern, with more than 800, 000― one person every 40 seconds― dying by it every year, worldwide, and 75% of which number occurred in low-income countries.
In Ghana, she said, the occurrence of suicide was increasing with an estimated 1,500 reported and 6,000 unreported cases annually.
Citing a World Bank Report, she indicated that 6.9 suicide deaths occurred in every 100,000 persons annually at an increasing rate of 12, adding that evidence was available to show that suicide occurred often among young people between the ages of 15 and 29-year-old men.
Dr Teddy said the common means of suicide was hanging, poisoning and the overdose of prescription drugs, citing increases in substance use and alcohol abuse, physical and domestic abuse, work-related stress, academic stress, mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, and other causes resulting from incarceration, exposure to suicidal behavior and withdrawal from antidepressant medications, among others, as the causes.
She noted that in most cases, communities and institutions such as churches, schools and workplaces, among others, were ill-equipped to support the prevention of suicide.
In a panel discussion, the discussants called for proper data and records on suicide to facilitate efficient evaluation and the provision of resources to address it.
This, the panelists said, required the training of researchers for the accuracy of data.
The panelists also stressed the need for the institution of Employers Assistance programmes that would address early warning signs in order to prevent suicide and promote increased productivity, adding that it was an ethical obligation to ensure the wellness of employees so as to keep them productive.
They also underscored the importance of positive lifestyles and mindsets as well as regular physical exercise, good sleeping habits and relationships―keeping positive people around oneself.
The discussants said it was critical for persons to learn to cope with stress by opening up to confidants.
To help prevent suicide, the panelists indicated, mental health assistance performance appraisals were critical while the Outpatients' Departments could be helpful in active case findings.
The discussants also identified schools as having the responsibility to support staff and students to lead stress-free lifestyles as well as the need to socialize children on Ghanaian culture and strengthen Ghanaian value systems in order not to crave unnecessarily for perfection, short of which, suicide ideas could emerge.
They said there was also the need for national policies to go beyond bringing naked persons out of the streets, but to prevent them from going naked in the first place, adding that the focus on psychiatric hospitals should be redirected to the counselling centres and consulting rooms of every health facility from where the signals could be picked.
The Open Forum Panel and Discussion, the fourth in a series, was organized by CHESPOR to commemorate this year's World Mental Health Day in Ghana.
Members of the Panel were Dr Teddy, Maura Cranny Ntow, Psychiologist, Greater Accra Regional Hospital; Dr Daniel Acorlor, Medical; Doctor, Greater Accra Regional Hospital; Patience Agyare, MentaL Health Practitioner; and Victus Kwaku Kpesese, Director, Administration, Mental Health Authority.